In today's episode, Michael and Chris open up the mailbag to discuss the fallout from last week's 1-on-1 debate (Kevin Garnett forever), then re-do the 2016 and '17 NBA drafts!
Michael Pina: It was essentially who are the best players from the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts? And I thought it would be fun to answer this email by conducting a very quick redraft of both of those drafts, just up until the fifth pick where we can shake out the top-tier pecking orders, because there's so many fascinating superstars and really talented players that were selected in both of these drafts and polarizing players at that. So I was thinking that I would take the first pick in the 2017 draft and then we can just go on. And you get the first pick in the 2016 draft. So for the sake of chronological order, why don't you kick us off with the 2016 draft. Who would you take if we were just redoing it over again?
Chris Herring: Oh, boy, that's a tough one. I went with Jaylen Brown as my top pick.
MP: Everything I just said about you that was nice, Chris, I take it back. I was not expecting you to do that to me right there.
CH: Because you were going to take him with the top pick, or because the pick was so bad?
MP: No, it was an excellent pick and I was going to take him with the second pick, I thought that that would have been safe for me, but now I can't do that. I was not expecting that, can you explain? So you pick Jaylen over, Simmons, Ingram, Jamal Murray, just what was the thought process there?
CH: So I've been this way ever since the Harden trade where I remember a lot of people being surprised that the Rockets didn't trade for Ben Simmons when they had the opportunity to build their team around Ben Simmons when they got rid of Harden. And I remember saying then at the time, and certainly now after Benjamin's awful playoffs showing and their elimination—I'm calling him by his full name because every time I think of that play where he passed out of the dunk, I think about being scolded by one of my own parents and being called by my full name as opposed to my nickname.
So, Benjamin, you shouldn't have to trade or take a franchise player that you're not sure you'd want to build your franchise around. So I don't think you could put Simmons there as the top guy from that draft anymore. He might be the most talented, but you have very few ways you can really build your team around someone like that, or not 'very few ways,' but you have to build your team in a very specific sort of way.
MP: In a specific way, right.
CH: It is kind of very few ways. There's no question now how you have to build your team if you're going to have him on it and have him be like a max guy for you. I think Philly is a good example of that. So, who knows, maybe he'll go somewhere else and we'll see that it just wasn't a fit between him and Embiid. Which I thought they looked like they could have been Shaq and Penny. Just as far as the wing presence like a really, really big wing player that's just immensely talented, a great passer, can score in open court and a big man that is just dominant. And it'll probably always kind of stick in Philly fans as craws that it didn't quite work out that way, but I couldn't put Simmons there. And Jaylen Brown, to why I would have him number one, for all the limitations you have with how you have to build your team around Simmons.
Jaylen Brown is such a good all-around player, that I think he probably could score more than he does. But he plays with Jayson Tatum and was playing with Kemba Walker, was playing with Gordon Hayward and all these other guys. He's a really good defender already, incredible IQ for a player, he started out like a really nice roll sort of guy, and already in my opinion has developed into a star and has a sort of balance that the other guys in this class just don't have. And it seems like a ceiling. There's still a ways to go, maybe until he hits that ceiling. I don't know that we'll even see his complete ceiling with him being on a team with Jayson Tatum. So there's a little bit of that where I feel like on some level—the way we got to see Scottie Pippen play a little bit differently when Michael Jordan was out, there is some of that with Jaylen Brown. Where I think there's more to his game than we even see sometimes, because he's playing with someone else that is a little bit more of a fluid scorer than he is and does a little bit more on the ball. So I think you could potentially build a franchise around him, I'm not sure if you'd be like a top-tier team that way. But, you know, if you built the team in the right way, I could see it.
MP: Yeah, I don't know if I would take Jaylen number one overall; it would be tough between him and who I'm going to take number two here. But yeah I'm not going to quibble with that one. And a really interesting point that you make about him playing with someone who is better—I think we both agree that Tatum is the better player and the first option when you're going into crunch time. Jalen can get a bucket in a lot of different ways, but Tatum is probably going to be the go-to scorer down the stretch here for the next several years. And I remember I interviewed Jaylen for a story for GQ a year and a half ago. I said something about how, 'Hey, this is your first season averaging 20 a game. What did you do in the offseason to up your skill level, etc.?' And he just completely dismissed my question and was like, I could have averaged 20 last year, but the system and the role just wasn't there for me, so that's why I didn't. I was like, O.K., well, yep, that stuff matters, and obviously he's supremely confident in his own abilities. The player who I'm taking next is I'm taking Jamal Murray.
CH: I wondered if you might do that. I didn't think you would.
MP: Yeah, I love Jamal Murray. I mean, what is there to say? Like, the postseason pedigree is right up there with just about anyone for what he did in the bubble. Twenty-seven point, seven assists, five rebounds per game, 45% three-point shooting on seven attempts per game, 50% from the field overall, just a total nightmare. Made some of the hardest shots look super easy, really upped his ability to finish around the rim recently. And obviously he tore his ACL, which is a humongous bummer. But I think that you and I are in step when we say that Jamal Murray is good enough to be the second-best player on a title-winning, if not contending team based on how everything was when he was healthy with [Nikola] Jokić, who eventually won MVP. So Jamal Murray is just terrific. I mean, when you have someone who can hit pull-up threes, who is getting to the line a little bit more, who's finishing around the basket, who can make plays for others, who just has gravity, it's just, it's really hard to pass that up in today's league.